Revelers outside nightclub catch city police off guard

Extra officers called to Howard Street

April 21, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A crowd of more than 2,000 revelers packed Howard Street early yesterday after a spring break party at a nightclub let out, forcing police to call in extra officers to break up minor skirmishes to keep order.

Police said they were unprepared for the large crowd outside Infinity Sound Stage in the 200 block of N. Howard St., between Saratoga and Lexington streets, because the party occurred on a weekday and authorities had not been told of the club's plans.

"It was just a lot of people milling around and walking down the middle of the street," said Maj. Steven McMahon, commander of the Central District. "There was pushing but no reported assaults. We are set up every weekend to deal with it, but this was unexpected and we didn't have the extra officers on hand."

The first signs of trouble began about 11: 30 p.m. when more than 2,500 people lined up at Infinity's doors, about 1,000 more than the club's legal capacity. McMahon said people with tickets were turned away.

About 1: 45 a.m., as the club let out, people began pushing and shoving, officials said. Police supervisors called in officers from the Mass Transit Administration and the neighboring Western District to help deal with the crowd.

McMahon said one person was arrested and charged with being drunk and disorderly. Two people were stabbed and slightly wounded during a street robbery, but that occurred about 10 blocks away and did not involve anyone who had been at the club, the major said.

Yesterday's incident occurred in one of the city's prime areas targeted for revitalization.

The area has been troubled by crime for years. Several homicides connected to the clubs occurred in the mid-1990s, but police said the scene has been quiet recently.

The city is helping to lead a $350 million effort to redevelop the struggling retail district around Lexington Market by reopening the Hippodrome Theater on Eutaw Street and building hundreds of apartments and shops.

Two of the area's main trouble spots -- Crazy John's on West Baltimore Street and the Greyhound station on West Fayette Street -- are to be condemned as part of the effort.

The owners of the Infinity club are listed in city Liquor Board records as Ahmed E. Mettwaly and Phillip A. Brown Jr. Neither could be reached for comment yesterday.

McMahon said police reports detailing yesterday's incident will be turned over to the liquor board for evaluation.

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